Telegraph Media Group has hired Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World who was imprisoned for charges relating to the phone-hacking scandal, as a PR adviser to improve the publisher's reputation.
Journalists working at the publisher are said to be angered by the decision from the group’s chief executive Murdoch MacLennan to hire such a controversial figure.
It is understood Coulson’s main brief is to promote the Daily and Sunday Telegraph as truthful and authoritative papers, something a journalist working at the publisher has called “wholly inappropriate” given his background, the Guardian reports.
MacLennan is regarded as one of Coulson’s close friends, and even gave evidence in court defending the former editor.
Of the appointment, MacLennan said: “We have a good working relationship with Andy, who has written for us a couple of times. We feel his company will add value to the business.”
One journalist working at the Telegraph is quoted by the Guardian as saying: “This cannot do anything but harm to our brand. It will deliver a severe blow to the credibility of our journalism.”
The former editor of News of the World resigned in 2007 following the conviction of one of his reporters for intercepting phone calls made by the royal household.
In the same year Coulson was appointed by David Cameron as the Conservative party’s PR chief, later becoming the government’s communications director when Cameron became prime minister in 2010.
Coulson was forced to resign in January 2011 amid the growing controversy surrounding the phone-hacking scandal, and was arrested later that year and charged with conspiracy to intercept voicemails.
MacLennan gave a character reference statement on Coulson’s behalf, saying Coulson was a man of "integrity and honour".
The Telegraph boss said at the time: "I have always admired Andy's professionalism. He has huge achievements to his name at the News of the World which are easy in the current climate to forget. He is very loyal and I believe this has earned him a great deal of loyalty."
Coulson was found guilty in June 2014, sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. In November 2014, Coulson was released from prison having served less than five months of his sentence.
In January 2016 Coulson formed a new corporate PR agency in partnership with Henry Chappell, a former director of Matthew Freud’s agency.